OCTOBER 02, 2012
Just when you thought the scandals involving U.S. airport security couldn’t possibly get any worse, a Philadelphia newspaper reports that the Department of Homeland Security hired a defrocked priest accused of molesting children without bothering to complete a background check.
It’s as if Abbott & Costello are in charge of airport security in the United States. Otherwise how could one explain the many transgressions of the Transportation Security Administration (TSA), the monstrous agency created by Congress to secure the nation’s transportation system—mainly aviation—after the 9/11 terrorist attacks. It’s generously funded to the tune of billions annually and has 65,000 employees yet can’t get the job done.
Just a few months ago a federal audit trashed the TSA, essentially saying that the DHS agency is so inept, the country remains inexcusably vulnerably to a repeat of 9/11. That’s partly because it doesn’t adequately screen luggage and passengers but mainly because it fails to properly vet foreign flight students. Remember that the Islamic terrorists who intentionally crashed planes into the World Trade Center and Pentagon trained as pilots in U.S. aviation schools and the TSA is supposed to make sure it doesn’t happen again.
Other mishaps include approving background checks for illegal immigrants to work in sensitive areas of major U.S. airports, guns and bombs regularly getting past officers during random tests and failing to meet federal standards by not screening cargo. When a loaded gun slipped through “security” at Los Angeles International Airport last fall, the TSA appeared particularly stupid, saying it was another agency’s “issue” because its “mandate is to screen baggage for explosives” not loaded guns.
Considering this history, it may not seem all that surprising that the agency hired a defrocked priest with a shady history as a security officer at a major U.S. airport. The man, Thomas Harkins, was removed from the ministry by the Diocese of Camden over allegations that he had molested a pair of grade-school girls, according to the news report. He was never criminally prosecuted but the diocese doled out nearly $200,000 to settle civil lawsuits.
At Philadelphia International Airport Harkins, who earns $75,600 a year, oversees screening operations for checked baggage but he once patted down airline passengers as they went through the facility’s security checkpoint. The TSA admits in the story that it never completed his background check. Here’s why; he was hired at a time when the agency was initially “staffing up” to protect airports from terrorists and background checks were often not completed.
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